MY NEW ROOM(PART ONE)

I was never passionate about studies since my childhood. This always made my parents worried. Now, since I had graduated their worry increased on daily basis and so were their scoldings. I was preparing for UPSC CSE and my dream was to become an IAS. But my concentration was not supporting me in achieving my goal. So, to help myself I started watching motivational videos on YouTube. A two-hour motivational video motivated me enough to study for one hour. After some days, the one hour reduced to 40 minutes and the time I spent on watching motivational videos increased. Days passed and the exam was coming closer. After so much scrolling on YouTube for topics like “How to study?”, “How to increase study time?”, “How to make my subjects interesting?”. I came across a video, which made some sense. The guy in the video recommended that living alone for preparation of exams will help. He said, “At our homes, there are so many distractions like the TV, computer, smartphones, sibling, friends and sometimes parents. If we live alone in a single room without any of these distractions, just with our books anyone can clear even the world’s toughest exam.” At that time this advice made a lot of sense to me. Told my parents about this idea, they found a room for me around 10 km away and all my belongings were shifted there, then I was blindfolded and dropped there so I won’t be able to find my way back(my idea). As decided I just took a small cellphone which was able to just make calls and as a deal, I would get the smartphone during the weekends for clearing my doubts.

My meals were going to be delivered by my parents or sometimes they would order at my place using any food delivery application.

The room was an extended part of a big bungalow where my landlords lived. My landlords were an old couple in their 60s having a son working in the US. They had asked their maid to clean the room as told by my parents but when I entered, it didn’t seem clean. There were spider webs in corner and lots of dust on the floor. I cleaned it myself. So the walls of the room were pale pink and one wall was half-covered with tiles maroon in colour with floral design same as my curtains. The room was unusually tall. As if extended later on. The wall was half brick and half wooden on the upper side as if extended later on. It had a small kitchen and a bathroom. 

I started studying, wrote on board, wrote on the tiles with an erasable marker. The first day I studied 8 hours continuously!

My father came with dinner and asked me about the room and progress in studies. Hearing that I studied for 8 hours he was really happy and ignored my concern about the unclean room and the unusual height. After a day of hard work, it was time to sleep. It was around 11:30 PM when I started sleeping. I was disturbed by a sound knock probably at my door. When I came to my senses, I got confused that whether the knock was in a dream or real. The landlord’s had told me that they would close the main gates 10:30 PM. I saw there the keyhole, there was just darkness. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and opened my door fast holding the knife very tightly behind my back with my right fist. A spine chilling breeze blew inside my room through me. No one was there. Closed the doors and went back to bed with a knife beneath my pillow. When I was about to sleep my heart rate would fasten up and I woke up with a feeling that someone passed close to me. I thought probably this is because it’s my first day sleeping alone at someone else’s house and my heart is not feeling safe. I slept at 6 am as I was feeling safer during the daytime. Woke Up around 10, opened my door to get fresh air, saw my breakfast in tiffin lying near the door. As I went to freshen up, while sitting on the toilet seat, I noticed there was a space between the wall and the ceiling of the bathroom. A gap of around 2 feet. I was really curious about what was there, but there was no way to climb up there. 

I started studying in the night and sleeping during the day time as it felt more secure. One night around 1 I heard a noise of an electric racket used for killing mosquitoes. The sound is basically like really small crackers bursting. Grabbed my knife and opened the gate to see who was there. It was my landlady! Killing mosquitoes of her garden which is in front of my room at one 1 AM! It was the first time I was seeing her, she was pale white, wearing a nightgown and somewhat healthy and lacked eyelashes. Suddenly she stopped and looked at me with her expressionless face. I smiled and quickly closed the door. I was unable to study after that. As I was lying still, I noticed a cockroach which was going inside my mattress and I was too late to respond. I uncovered my mattress and caught the cockroach and flushed it in the toilet. When I was to cover my mattress, I noticed a hole in it and saw that the fabric used in the filling was black. As I put my finger inside the hole to see what the fabric was made of, I realised it was not a fabric but hairs! I was horrified and called my parents, and dad said this kind of mattress is common, it might be a horsehair mattress. I asked him to get the mattress from my room.

As decided, I got the smartphone on Saturday. During the night time, I was face timing with my girlfriend, telling her about my new initiative and concerns about my new room. As I was showing her my room, I noticed a shadow moving towards my bathroom. 

Me- Did you just see that?

she- See what?

Me- The shadow! near my bathroom.

She- No, I didn’t see anything, that might be yours or a glitch. 

And then we started to talk about other things. As she was showing her new tattoo which was on her leg, I noticed a shadow behind me in my video. No, it was not of me! It was bald oval-shaped head and a really big body with no ears. 

Me- hey, just see behind me.

She- what?

Me- I mean the shadow. Can you see the shadow which is behind me?

She- No, and I think you are trying to freak me out. 

Me- No, I swear I saw it.

She- I didn’t see anything, probably you are tired, get some sleep. We will talk tomorrow.

Immediately I called my parents. And told them that I saw a ghost in my video while taking a selfie with Snapchat(of course, brown parents won’t accept an unsuccessful son’s girlfriend). My father laughed it off by saying, “was that ghost getting the Snapchat filter too” and asked me to sleep. But how could I sleep or study now? To distract my mind I started watching porn.

Next day I woke up hearing a blast during the afternoon. Stepped outside to see what has happened. The transformer of my landlord’s bungalow had a short circuit and has caught fire. Everyone in the locality came to see what has but my landlords were nowhere to be seen. The society security guards started to throw sand on it to extinguish the fire. I got inside my room. Everything was working fine due to inverters. At around 10 pm there was a knock at my door. The landlady was on the door. She asked me to turn off everything as the electrician was fixing the transformer and to put that knife back.

During the afternoon I decided to see what was in the gap of the bathroom ceiling. Rang the bell of my landlord’s but no one came out. After 3 attempts, I decided not to disturb them further. As I was about to leave, the gates opened. She asked me what happened. I asked for the ladder as I need to clean my fan. I said I can take it by myself just tell me where is it. She told me to stop. And she brought it by herself. As I was taking the ladder from her, I smelt something. Something rotten, it was coming from her. I couldn’t handle that anymore. Quickly took the ladder and came to my room. It was a ladder made of bamboo. As I was climbing to see what was there. The bamboo stick beneath my leg broke and I fell. The planned failed with a wound. As I was putting the ladder in the garden, I noticed the maid was cleaning the veranda of the bungalow. I called her.

Me -Can you please clean my bathroom ceiling.

maid -No.

Me -I will pay you.

maid – I don’t enter the rooms of this bungalow.

Me – Why?

To Be Continued…..

Written By – Satyam Kumar Tiwari

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Why is Phase-3 of Vaccine Trial Complicated?

Written by Inshaa Siddiquee

The Covid-19 outbreak has proved to be one of the most challenging phases in our lives. However, many companies are racing towards developing a safe and effective vaccine to protect against Covid-19. Moreover, Phase 3 trials of investigational vaccines are underway.

How are vaccines developed?

New vaccines are tested in clinical trials to determine that they are both safe and effective. After the successful completion of clinical trials, they get licensed in US.

A lot of testing is done before a vaccine ever gets tested in humans. There is a long process of development in the laboratory.

The vaccine is firstly tested on various animals like mice, rabbits, hamsters and primates that have similar human physiology. After which their responses and reactions are studied. Because it is unclear whether these vaccines will work or not, a very structured set of clinical trials begins.

If the vaccine has proven itself it enters the Phase-1 studies.

What Happens in clinical trials?

The phase involves healthy volunteers who are informed about how and why these vaccines are being tested and also about a new potential harm. This process is called Informed Consent taken place before entering the trial.

The clinical trial comprises of 4 phases.

PHASE -1

PHASE -1 includes human pharmacology and safety. Testing takes place among a small group of people (roughly 30-60). It’s given in small doses and monitored to see if it is safe and well-tolerated.

However, a drug’s side effects might be subtle or restricted to a few people. In reference to this Phase-1 trial are not expected to identify all the side effects

PHASE -2

Phase-2 includes testing with a large group of people around 100-300 to determine the safe dosage range to get the desired response.

In reference to Covid-19, AstraZeneca vaccine had been put at halt at this stage. The pause was due to a harmful side effect reported by a volunteer in US who had been injected with the vaccine.

Nevertheless, promising vaccines that are safe and generate strong immune response move into phase-3 trials.

PHASE-3

Phase-3 is a larger version of phase-2 trial. It is held in multiple locations to capture the demographic variability in the population. It a complete randomized and double-blinded trial. Half of the volunteers are given the vaccine, whereas the other half are given placebo (salt water). As the process is double-blinded, neither the participants nor the study staffs are aware about who is getting which type of injection.

Furthermore, the study compares the rate of infection and placebo groups. It tells us whether the vaccine will be able to prevent the infection and if so, if it is effective enough in all of the volunteers or only a sub-group. Along with the safety data that is collected in all phases of vaccine studies, this efficacy data is used by the FDA to decide if the vaccine should be licensed.

In the case of Covid-19, there is an occurring trial of the US-MRNA vaccine.

The CEO of Moderna, Stéphan Bancel said, “The phase-3 for vaccine is a typical clinical trial, it’s a very large one of 30,000 people, 15,000 will receive the vaccine, whereas 15,000 will receive placebo and we will be able to see through data what is the safety of a vaccine and what is the efficacy of a vaccine”.

Across Europe, Brazil and other locations the Oxford vaccine is likely to be tested in the same way.

PHASE-4

A vaccine which clears all the phases is further sent for approval and license. After which the entire company is devoted to creating the vaccine in bulk, safely without it degrading or losing potency.

Post marketing studies delineate additional information, including the treatment’s risks, benefits, and optimal use. As such, they are ongoing during the drug’s lifetime of active medical use.

WEAPONRY AND WOMEN: RESERVOIR OF NEW ENERGY

A glass ceiling was completely closed on Thursday when Defence Ministry of India sanctioned a formal letter granting permanent commission to women officers in the eight more branches of the Indian army. Following the Supreme Court, the endless struggle to break the gender discrimination and provide equality for women in the Army had to be battled right up to the peak level. The sanction letter of the Indian government specifies that women’s short-service Commission (SSC) will be granted in all the 10 streams in which they serve presently as the cause for occasional celebration.

“In the anticipation, the Army HQ had already set in motion a series of preparatory actions for conduct the permanent commission selection board for eligible women officers. The board will be scheduled as soon as all eligible women SSC officers exercise their options and requisite their documentation,” said an Army personnel on Thursday.

Women were introduced in the Indian Army only in short service commission since 1992. In 2008, women were first inducted as permanent commissioned officers in Legal and Education branches only. In 2020, 8 more crops are added as permanent commissioned officers is undoubtedly a good sign to break all prejudices associated with the Armed forces. Till now the percentage of women in the Indian Army was 3.89%, air force 13.28%, and navy 6.7% only. The irony is that only 1,653 women are serving in the Indian army of the 40,825 total officers.

Some intangible reasons like motherhood, physiological limitations, and troops from rural backgrounds not accepting women in a command role were quoted by our government but in February, it was discarded by Supreme Court at the time of giving permanent status to women in the Army.

The time has come for a realization that women officers in the Army are not adjuncts to a male-dominated establishment whose presence must be tolerated within narrow confines.”-Supreme Court.

This is not the first time in India that a woman has been seen as a warrior. History bears the witness to the battlefield story of Lakshmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi. She is always remembered for her leadership in the war of independence against the British troops.

In 1943, amidst world war2, the Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose also created the Rani Jhansi Regiment, all women crops of soldiers.

However, patriarchal society cannot accept this mutiny so lightly. In other parts of the world, in countries such as Israel and the United State, women were exempted to be active on the battlefield. And here our government is being pushed to make women’s role a bit more active in the Indian Army.

It can be assumed that for this sex stereotype and gender discrimination feminism was derived in India. Indian feminists have fought against some cultural issues within India’s misogynist society. The sorrowful thing is where women are revered as a goddess, their women have to fight for their existence even after so many years of independence. Such a healthy society can never be built with misogyny. So it is needless to say that the decision that the Supreme Court made will uproot these prejudices even a little bit. Our government also needs to think more deeply about equality.

Though the picture has changed a lot and gender barrier may have loosened eventually but the constant struggle against inequity is too far from the finishing line.

-Saswati Chattopadhyay.

Conducting exams during Covid-19 pandemic: is it fair?

“The sanctity of a degree-granting institution has never before been questioned by the industry.

So should students be risking their lives to appear for an exam amidst the pandemic?”

Students across the globe are facing hiatus brought on by the pandemic COVID 19 crises since March 2020. In ongoing circumstances. March is the month when all educational institutions from playschool to postgraduate programs are in their last leg of closure.

The year 2020 has seen the wave of the novel Coronavirus or the COVID – 19. With the inconvenience across the country lockdown from mid-March onwards, all instructive organizations have been compelled to close and the Board Exams in different states alongside CBSE, ICSE and college UG and PG tests have been delayed.

 It is highly doubtful whether it is favourable to hold the exams amid in the middle of the pandemic.

Students are under a great deal of Psychological and Mental worry because of the current emergency and are uncertain about what’s future for them. The pandemic has made feelings of trepidation concerning the security of the students, on the off chance that the Exams are to be held. The rising case of COVID contaminations is big trouble.

There are different educational administrations who wanted to lead the old regular way of conducting examinations, but since of this COVID-19 alarm, they have moved their whole assessment process for the Remote Proctored Online Exam. The whole administered assessment process became consistent and all security parts of invigilation are dealt with.

Challenges while conducting Online Examinations

  • Students who live in rural regions or regions where network are not so good can confront extraordinary trouble in finishing their exam on schedule or even appearing in it. This can affect their grades and performance. 

• Students will have a high ground in online examinations as they can without much of a stretch take the assistance of the web or the books. The principle thought process of surveying the information of students will be lost in this procedure. 

• Online examinations process security is one of the basic difficulties. Appropriate verification, approval procedure ought to be followed to guarantee that the correct applicant is showing up for the exam in a secure atmosphere with no acts of malpractice. 

• Timely examination can be terrible. If in any situation, a school or school is directing on the web assessments then they should give sufficient opportunity to the students for the finish. Time ought to be set by the degree of queries. All the problems that can be looked at by any students during on the web tests ought to likewise be considered before choosing the time. Along these lines, it will help the students a great deal. 

• Several government colleges and schools have an absence of framework and practical issues’ so it would be exceptionally hard for them to direct online examination.

Challenges while conducting Real Examinations

  • It will be difficult for students to keep up social distancing consistently. 

• Many students just as guardians will be unsure about them as they will be dreaded of affected by a coronavirus. 

• Students who might be experiencing general cold and hack will endure as they won’t be permitted inside the assessment places. This can negatively affect their professions. 

• Lack of open vehicle can likewise be a challenge for the management just as a student in arriving at the exam place on schedule.

Henceforth, it is to the greatest advantage for the students that the CBSE, ICSE Various State Boards and Universities drop the Board Exams, UG and PG examination altogether and promote all the students dependent on their interior evaluation and give them marks in like manner. Any further deferment and rescheduling the Exams will just add to their current pressure, stress and vulnerability.

 Different state governments and some IIT’s have just settled on this choice. Ample opportunity has already past the other state governments, sheets and colleges additionally go with the same pattern and clarify choices about dropping the exams altogether, keeping given the desperation of the circumstance and spare the students from experiencing further Stress. It is the life of the students that matters the most and not the Exams and their vocations. Consequently holding the exams during the pandemic ought to never be the correct decision.

-Dimple Sahu

POLITICAL CRISIS IN RAJASTHAN: A Detailed Insight

On 12th July 2020, Sachin Pilot, former Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, claimed that the Ashok Ghelot government is in minority. He also claimed that over 30 Congress MLAs have pledged support towards him. The Congress has 107 MLAs, and the BJP has 72, in the 200-member Rajasthan Legislative Assembly.

Former Madhya Pradesh Congress and current Madhya Pradesh BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted on the political situation in Rajasthan and said “Sad to see my erstwhile colleague, Sachin Pilot too, being sidelined and persecuted by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Shows that talent and capability find little credence in the Congress”.

On 13th July 2020, Congress leader Avinash Pande claimed that 109 MLAs have signed a letter of support to the CM – Ashok Ghelot.

The same day Sachin Pilot, skipped Congress Legislature party meeting.

The same day, Avinash Pande alleged that the BJP is behind the conspiracy to topple the Rajasthan government. He said, “The BJP is trying to destabilize the Congress government and wants to repeat what they did in Madhya Pradesh. But the MLAs are fully with the government and the party.”

On the very same day, in a seemingly unrelated affair, Income Tax officials conducted raids at the premises of Dharmendra Rathod and Rajiv Arora – close aides to CM Ghelot.

Then Chattisgarh’s Congress In-Charge and Senior Congress Leader PL Punia claimed that Sachin Pilot was a part of the BJP now.

Congress Spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surejwala, stated that Congress is ready to listen to Pilot but no indiscipline will be tolerated. He further said, “I am hoping he will turn up for the (CLP) meeting.”

However, TV Newschannel AajTak reported that “Sachin Pilot will remain in Delhi and will not go to Jaipur for the CLP meeting. He has rejected the Congress’ offer for talks.”

Over 90 MLAs were at CM Ghelot’s residence in Jaipur for the Congress Legislative Party meeting, reported ANI.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress President DK Shivkumar gave the following statement, “No, he (Pilot) will not leave. I have full confidence that he will not leave. He is a very sincere Congressman like his father (Rajesh Pilot). He has built the party for the past six-seven years. He is the President (Rajasthan state unit), he has done his best for the party.”

Shivkumar also accused the BJP of trying to destabilize Congress.

By the time the CLP meeting in Jaipur ended, Ghelot claimed support of 102 MLAs.

In the meantime, Tv reports claimed that not only Pilot wants the Home and Finance portfolios but he also wants to keep the PCC chief post to himself. Currently, CM Ghelot heads the Home Department.

But the feud between Ghelot and Pilot began way before Congress came to power in Rajasthan.

In December 2018, during Assembly elections, the dispute came into being during candidate selection and escalated when Ghelot was given a third shot at being the Chief Minister.

This decision upset Pilot for obvious reasons. Pilot was appointed Congress’ state president a month after its worst-ever defeat in 2013 and played a major role in reviving the party. In return, instead of the CM post, he was appointed as the Deputy CM.

The CLP passed a resolution supporting the Ashok Ghelot government in Rajasthan. It said, “the CLP condemns all undemocratic wrongful acts for weakening the party and the government.” It also suggested strong action against any Congress MLA who weakens the party.

Reports claimed that Ghelot had won the fight against Pilot.

But Rajasthan Cabinet Minister Ramesh Meena said, “I am with Sachin Pilot.”

ANI reported that “20 MLAs didn’t attend the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting held at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s residence”.

While BJP leader Amit Malvia, demanded Ashok Ghelot to “immediately call for a floor test to prove majority”, senior Congress leader Abhisekh Singhvi asked Sachin Pilot to settle his differences.

 “He may have genuine grievances but where I draw a red flag is that if you try to topple a government or hurt your own (Congress) party. I think everything except that red flag is accepted in party. It’s a capacious party. I urge, request, beg him to exercise that right,” Singhvi said.

On 14th July 2020, the dissident leader, Sachin Pilot was removed from the State Cabinet as well as the PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) president post. This decision was taken in the CLP meeting.

Two other Cabinet Ministers, Vishvendra Singh, and Ramesh Meena were also dropped from the Cabinet, for backing Pilot.

The announcement was made by Mr. Surjewala. He stated that the Minister of State for Education, Govind Singh Dotasra will be the new Rajasthan PCC president.

He also said, “ Mr. Pilot enjoyed the affection and blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and was given political power at a young age. Yet, he and other ministers were trying to topple the state government as part of a BJP conspiracy.”

Soon after his removal, Pilot tweeted that “truth can be rattled, not defeated“.

Soon after, CM Ghelot held a Cabinet Meeting during the evening. After the Cabinet Meeting, another meeting of the entire Council of Ministers, including Ministers of State, also took place.

The same day, Union Minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat hinted at Pilot’s entry into the BJP.

He said, “If anybody with a mass base joins the BJP or any political party, everybody welcomes him. Expressing trust in our ideology, if anybody joins us we will welcome him with open arms. This is a normal procedure.”

Meanwhile, after sacking two Cabinet Ministers who backed Pilot, two other MLAs loyal to Mr. Pilot – Mukesh Bhakar and Ramniwas Gawriya – also reacted sharply to the development.

Bhakar was removed from the post of the state Youth Congress president. He said that he became the chief of the body after winning its elections, and questioned Ghelot’s right to remove him.

On the same day, Congress national General Secretary and Rajasthan in-charge, Avinash Pande dissolved the party’s state executive and all departments of the RPCC (Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee).

On 15th July 2020, the Congress party initiated the process to disqualify Sachin Pilot and other MLAs backing him, for anti-party activities.

A senior party leader claimed, ”Disqualification notices will be issued by Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi to Sachin Pilot and other MLAs who did not attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting held on Monday and Tuesday.”

“The notices of disqualification will be issued to all such MLAs, including Sachin Pilot, who were absent from the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting through the Speaker of the legislative assembly,” AICC general secretary Avinash Pande said on Wednesday.

He said the party has filed a petition before the Speaker for dismissal of such MLAs. If replies by the MLAs are not found to be justified, it is up to the Speaker to decide for action, he added.”

                                                           – PTI (Press Trust of India)

Along with Pilot, a total of 18 other MLAs were issued notices and were asked to respond to them within the next three days. The notices were issued on 14th July.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Pilot in a statement said that he is not joining the BJP.

The Hindu reported, “Mr. Pilot said that he will continue to be the Congress MLA from Tonk. He said he has discussed his grievances with party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, but they are yet to be resolved.

Pilot stated, “There is a planned effort and propaganda to tarnish my name and image. I have come here with my genuine grievances with Ashok Gehlot Ji’s government.”

“I have not said anything against my party or uttered a word. I have not picked up a fight with my party. I have had a conversation with Priyanka Ji but that has not led to any resolution,” he further added.

On the same day, the AICC (All India Congress Committee) dissolved all district and block Congress committees in Rajasthan.

Avinash Pande – Congress party’s Rajashtan in charge – stated that new committees will be formed soon.

He also said that the party’s doors have not closed for Pilot.

“The party”s doors have not been closed for Pilot. May God give… good sense and he realizes his mistake. I pray that he comes out of the elusive trap of BJP,” he said in a tweet.

On 16th July 2020, the Congress Party put notices on the wall of rebels for not attending key party meetings.

Congress sources told NDTV that, “over the weekend, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra phoned Sachin Pilot three times – but without a detente”. Sachin Pilot remained unmoved by the Gandhis’ attempt to settle differences.

In an unanticipated move, Sachin Pilot then moved to Rajasthan High Court against the speaker’s notice along with MLAs against disqualification notices. He hired ex-Attorney General, Mukul Rohtagi.

Sachin Pilot challenged a rule in the constitution that allows the Speaker to disqualify any member who has “voluntarily given up his membership”. They argued that this provision was used by the Rajasthan Speaker, to serve notice to the dissidents asking them to explain by Friday “anti-party activities”. If they fail to do so they will be disqualified, which will be ultimately beneficial for the Ghelot government as if the rebel MLAs are disqualified, the majority mark will drop making it easier for him to win a floor test. Whereas, if the rebels avoid being disqualified, they’ll be allowed to vote as Congress members, and hence the Ghelot government which claims the support of 106 MLAs, could fall.

The court hearing was supposed to be held at 3 pm on July 16th, itself but after senior Advocate, Harish Salve, argued that the MLAs wanted to challenge the constitutional validity of the notices and needed some time to file it anew, Pilot was granted time to amend the petition. The matter was to be heard by a division bench now. The amended petition was to be heard on Friday, i.e. 17th July, as reported by PTI.

Congress in a statement said, that Sachin Pilot has “gone to a point of no return”. Congress also alleged that the fact that Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve -top government lawyers in the BJP regimes- were representing Team Pilot in court was a huge sign that the BJP is backing the rebels to topple the government in Rajasthan.

On 17th July 2020, a Special Congress Party briefing was held by Congress Leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, and Govind Singh Dotasra.

Rebel MLAs Bhanwar Lal Sharma, and Vishvendra Singh were suspended from Primary Membership after the Congress claimed audio proof of them being involved in deal-making to pull down its government in Rajasthan. They along with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat were accused of conspiring to topple the government in Rajasthan. After Congress came out with its allegations, two FIRs were lodged. One of them was against Union Minister “Gajendra Singh”.

A businessman named Sanjay Jain was arrested, as he had been charged in the FIR.

Congress claimed BJP’s connections with the man, but the BJP denied any links.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Yesterday, shocking tapes were aired by the media in which Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, BJP leader Sanjay Jain and Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma spoke about bribing MLAs and bringing down the Rajasthan government. Congress has suspended Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh from the primary membership of the party. The party has also issued show-cause notices to them.”

Both, Union Minister, Shekhawat, and Congress MLA Banwar Lal Sharma, have denied the allegations and have claimed that the audiotapes are fake and that it wasn’t their voices.

The Congress has demanded the Rajasthan Police Special Operation Group (SOG) investigate the matters as it directly reports to the Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan High Court was to hear Sachin Pilot’s camp’s plea at 1 pm, on 17th July. It was deferred until 5:30 pm Tuesday (21st July). “No action can be taken against MLAs till then,” said Lawyer Prateek Kasliwal, who is representing Speaker CP Joshi at Rajasthan HC.

The petition by Pilot and other rebel MLAs challenging disqualification notices by the Congress was to be heard by Rajasthan High Court again on Monday (20th July 2020).

On 18th July 2020, BJP leader Laxmikand Bhardwaj filed a complaint against Congress leaders including Govind Singh Dotasra and Randeep Surjewal for associating Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat’s name with the audio clips.

The BJP also questioned the Congress for MLAs being enclosed in Jaipur Hotel, saying that Corona restrictions were not being followed.

The BJP questioned the Rajasthan Government if they indulged in phone tapping and demanded a CBI probe into this matter, calling phone-tapping a violation of privacy.

BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra was quoted, “State government should answer whether they indulged in phone tapping as CM and their other leaders are saying the audio is authentic whereas in FIR it is mentioned as purported.”

He further said, “We demand a CBI probe into this matter, whether phone tapping was done or SOPs were followed. Is there an emergency situation in Rajasthan? Are all political parties being targeted this way?”

The MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) sought a report from Rajasthan’s Chief Secretary over allegations on phone tapping.

BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) Chief Mayawati also tweeted against Ashok Ghelot.

“As is known that Mr. Gehlot, in the first time violated the anti-defection law. He betrayed BSP for the second time in a row and got the party MLAs included in Congress. Now, by tapping the phone, his move is another illegal and unconstitutional act. The Rajasthan governor should take effective cognizance of the ongoing political deadlock, instability, and recommend imposition of President’s rule in the state so that democracy doesn’t suffer”, she said in a series of tweets.

The BJP wrote a letter to Speak CP Joshi, seeking disqualification of six BSP MLAs who joined Congress.

Meanwhile, Congress Spokesperson Pawan Khera addressed the media. He alleged that the BJP had misused its machinery in Haryana to foil an open investigation into the matter.

He further questioned that why does Sachin Pilot trust Haryana more than Rajasthan.

“Under that protection, they escape from the hotel when the Haryana Police reaches for their voice sample collection. If you are part of Congress, why are you in the custody of a BJP-ruled state?”, he said.

“The track record of BJP in Rajasthan, Haryana convinces us that we cannot allow BJP to kidnap our MLAs and let them create a crisis in the state. Even if they lose an election, they try to subvert democracy”, he further added.

  “Over the last 10 days, we all witnessed the daylight of democracy by BJP in Rajasthan. Their only grievance was when we were murdering democracy, why were we recording and whether it was legal”, said Pawan Khera.

After Pawan Khera, Rajasthan Congress President, Govind Singh Dostra briefed the media and asked BJP’s leadership to collectively reply to CM Ghelot’s challenge on the veracity of the audio clips.

Alok Tripathi, DG, ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau) in a statement said, “The audio clips will be sent to FSL for verification. After the report comes and it is verified, we will make the alleged people undergo a voice test.”

An eight-member team was constituted by the SOG to look into the horse-trading case in connection with the audio clips.

On 19th July 2020, NDTV reported that Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot will likely call Assembly session next week to showcase strength in House.

Ghelot met Governor Kalraj Mishra on Saturday (18th July), although he termed the meeting a “courtesy call”, it came hours after two BTP (Bharatiya Tribal Party) MLAs extended their support to Congress government in Rajasthan.

Ghelot tweeted, “Both MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) announced their support to the government after meeting their state executive officials and discussing with their demands.”

The Congress demanded Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat’s resignation over his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to topple the Rajasthan Government.

Congress leader Ajay Maken said, “Now that Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has been named in the FIR and his voice recognized in the audiotape, why is holding the post of Union Minister? Congress demands that either he resigns or he is removed so that he can’t influence the probe … I heard that he is saying that the voice in the audiotape is not his but of another Gajendra Singh. If it is so, he should give his voice sample and step down from the post until the probe is completed.”

He further questioned that why is the police in BJP-ruled states not letting Rajasthan Police collect the voice samples of Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh. This comes after Rajasthan Police visited the Haryana resort holding Rebel MLAs for the second time, and left after 20 minutes as the gates to the resort did not open.

“This was the second time in three days that the Rajasthan Police made a beeline for a resort where the MLAs are said to be staying. On Friday evening, they had to return empty-handed from the ITC Bharat Grand. Later, they said the Haryana Police did not cooperate with them”, reported NDTV

On 20th July 2020, The Rajasthan High Court resumed hearing on the petitions by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress legislators against the disqualification notices served on them by state assembly Speaker CP Joshi.

Abhisekh Manu Singhvi, who is representing Speaker C P Joshi, argued that Sachin Pilot and other rebel MLAs cannot go to court against disqualification notices prematurely before any decision is made by the Speaker. He also challenged the rebels’ argument that skipping two meetings did not mean they were quitting the party.

“The Speaker may or may not pass a correct decision. But there cannot be any interference at the pre-order stage pre-empting that Speaker will take a wrong decision,” Mr. Singhvi said.

To the rebels who were saying that skipping meetings and making statements cannot be interpreted as abandonment of the party, Mr. Singhvi said, “There is no need for formal resignation; giving up of membership can be inferred from conduct. There is no straight-jacket approach for Speaker to decide (under the constitution). There is no fixed formula. So how to take a decision is within the Speaker’s domain.”

Harish Salve, on the other hand, argued, “Mere act on inner-party indiscipline cannot be regarded as giving up of party membership. Kihoto judgment had addressed the issue of inner-party protest. Protesting against the party while staying within the party cannot be regarded as giving up party membership.”

He questioned, “If a group of MLAs says that the party president is incompetent, and the party president complains to the Speaker that they have defected, and the Speaker issues notice for disqualification, can they not approach the Court against it?”

Mr. Salve further said, “A party member is free to defy the party whip direction outside the house. Kihoto nowhere says that defying party whip outside house amounts to defection. Intra-party dissent, however shrill it may be, until the moment it goes to the extent of supporting another party, cannot be a ground to even start disqualification proceedings under 10th schedule.”

The court was to resume the next hearing on Tuesday (21st July) when Mukul Rohatgi would argue for Sachin Pilot’s camp.

On the same day, Sachin Pilot responded to Congress MLA Giriraj Singh Malinga’s allegations of bribing him and other MLAs to join BJP.

He said, “I am saddened but not surprised to be at the receiving end of such baseless and vexatious allegations being leveled against me. This is done solely to malign me and to stifle the legitimate concerns that I had raised against the party leadership of the state, as a member and MLA of the Congress. This attempt further aims at defaming me and attacks my credibility. The narrative is being redirected to avoid addressing the main issue. I will be taking appropriate and strictest possible legal action against the MLA who was made to make these accusations. I am sure more such concocted allegations will be thrown at me to cause aspersions on my public image. But I shall be unfettered and remain firm in my beliefs and convictions.”

On 21st July, 2020, Rajasthan Congress held another CLP meeting at Fairmount Hotel in Jaipur, where Congress legislators in support of the Ashok Gehlot government are camping.

“Neither Congress nor BJP want Assembly to be dissolved and election to take place. Entire country is watching the way you’re fighting. Your respect has increased manifold. It’s not something ordinary. All of you have phones, there’s no pressure on anyone”, said CM Ghelot.

He further said that those who have betrayed the party will not be able to face people.

Gehlot then thanked the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal legislator for supporting the Congress.

Rajasthan HC’s hearing on the petition filed by Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel Congress MLAs resumed at 10:30 am.

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing Pilot’s camp argued that “High Court’s power cannot be curtailed and it has jurisdiction to hear the case. Each judgment has to be read with facts trying to explain how landmark judgment ‘Kihoto’ is not applicable in this case… Under Article 226, the powers of the high court is unlimited and the veil from over any law can be lifted.”

Shedding light on Speaker C P Joshi’s conduct, Rohatgi asks the Court to demand an oath letter from the Speaker. He further said that The Speaker should be asked to answer all the questions raised by the Pilot camp.

He referred to a 2020 judgment by the Supreme Court that questioned the impartiality of the Speaker that favored setting up an external tribunal to decide questions of disqualification since Speakers are aligned with ruling parties.

Advocates Vimal Choudhary and PC Bhandari were heard after the session resumed after lunch at 2 pm.

The Court questioned advocates PC Bhandari and Vimal Choudhary “why should they be heard as it not a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and the matter is not related to the public interest but to the interest of the party.”

To which Advocate Bhandari referred to old judgments passed by the Supreme Court, and replied, ” If Schedule 10 has to be expelled or its validity has to be questioned, then there will be no purpose of the Defection Law. The high court cannot solely discuss the validity of Schedule 10 as it has been passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and the Centre needs to be involved while discussing the validity of the schedule.”

After hearing all arguments, the Court told the Assembly Speaker that no action will be taken against Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel MLAs till July 24, and reserved its order till then.

After discussing Rajasthan High Court’s order with State Assembly Secretary, and being in a conference with Avinash Pandey, Randeep Surjewala. Bhawani Shankar, Devdutt Kamat, and other lawyers, C P Joshi informed Lawyers of both camps that he will defer the disqualification proceedings till 5:30 pm July 24.

On 22nd July 2020, Speaker C P Joshi moved to Supreme Court and requested the SC to stop the High Court from delivering any verdict. He also challenged HC’s order of delay and intervention.

C P Joshi addressed the media before filing the petition and said that the Speaker has the power to disqualify MLAs for defying their party.

NDTV reported, “It is well-defined by the Supreme Court that only the Speaker can decide on anti-defection. The Speaker had full authority to send notice. It can be judicially reviewed only later, after the Speaker’s decision,” said Mr. Joshi, calling the rebels’ petition a dangerous precedent that could lead to a breakdown of constitutional rules. “I don’t want this to escalate to a constitutional crisis.”

Mr. Joshi will be represented by Lawyer Kapil Sibal, while Team Pilot will be represented by Mukul Rohatgi. The Speaker’s move to the SC revealed his concern that the HC verdict may not be in his favor.

The SC hearing based on Joshi’s plea was to be heard on Thursday (23rd July).

Meanwhile, in what seems to be a bid to pressure Ghelot, his aides have been questioned or raided in various cases by central agencies. On 22nd July itself, his brother’s property was being raided by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with an alleged scam in exporting fertilizer.

On 23rd July 2020, the Supreme Court refused the request of C P Joshi to stay the Rajasthan’s HC’s proceedings on Sachin Pilot and rebel MLAs’ petition and said the next (detailed) hearing will be held on July 27th.

During the hearing, the Bench said, “the larger question here is whether a legislator’s voice of dissent can be shut down with the threat of disqualification. Can expressing dissent amount to voluntarily giving up the party membership under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and invite anti-defection proceedings?”

“Can the voice of dissent be shut down like this in a democracy? This is not a simple matter. These are people elected by the public. The larger question is about democracy and how it will survive like this… This for us is not about the disqualification of some people,” Justice Mishra further added while addressing Advocate Kapil Sibal.

“If these MLAs have to voice their dissent, let them do it in their party meetings. The disqualification petition before me says they did not attend party meetings, they attempted to destabilize their own government, they are sitting incommunicado in a Haryana hotel and making demands for a floor test in the media…”, Mr. Sibal responded.

He further added that the July 14th notice issued by the speaker was an opportunity provided to the MLAs to explain themselves.

“I, as the Speaker, am giving them a chance to respond to the petition… As to why there are holed up in a hotel? If I am satisfied with their explanation, I will not disqualify them. But no judicial authority can interfere till I make my final decision in the disqualification proceedings. That is the law you declared in Kihoto Hollohan case in 1992”, he further argued.

Then Justice Gavai along with Justice Murari said on 21st July, the Rajasthan HC has only “requested” the Speaker to defer the disqualification proceedings till 24th July.

To which Mr. Sibal assisted by advocate Sunil Fernandes replied, “The HC told me [Speaker] ‘you cannot decide the matter’ and ‘you extend their time to file replies to disqualification notices’. Both directions are unconstitutional. The HC cannot direct the Speaker to extend time. The HC has no jurisdiction in this issue till the Speaker made his decision on the disqualification.”

After a while, Justice Mishra suggested an adjournment and said the issue was “very serious”, and required “prolonged hearing”.

The Bench comprising Justices BR Gavai, Krishna Murari, and Arun Mishra said, “Rajasthan Speaker’s petition against HC order asking him to defer disqualification process till July 24 requires detailed hearing. No stay of HC order. But the outcome of any order by HC will be subject to the decision of SC. Next hearing on July 27.”

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal then asked the court to immediately stay HC proceedings and argued that if the HC order is not stayed, it will give the rebel MLAs time to do what they want.

However, after Senior Advocates, Mr. Salve and Mr. Rohatgi objected to Mr. Sibal’s plea to stay and argued that “the Speaker having once taken a chance and joined the High Court proceedings cannot now seek a stay. The Speaker did not demur when the High Court previously had twice deferred the disqualification proceedings,” the SC refused Mr. Sibal’s request.

On the same day, Rajasthan CM Ashok Ghelot said that an Assembly Session will be called soon and claimed that all legislators of Congress were united. He also claimed that he had “full majority”.

He further said, “We will prove the mandate on the floor of the House”.

He addressed the media in Jaipur and said, “Some of the MLAs held hostage will also come and vote for us… They are calling and telling us that they are being held against their wishes.”

Mr. Ghelot also slammed raids being conducted by Central Agencies, and said, “these intimidatory tactics would not stop the Congress from exposing the BJP’s fascist ideology”.

While the Hierarchical form of Congress’ government and the ill-treatment Sachin Pilot faced by the Ghelot government which led to rebellion cannot be overlooked, one must not forget that this is not the first case of government toppling that BJP has been accused of. From Karnataka and Maharashtra to Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has been accused of conspiring to topple state governments.

But in the end, we need to ask ourselves that when the Madhya Pradesh government fell and BJP formed its government with the help of Jyotiraditya Scindia, Coronavirus cases in this nation were well below 500. Now that there are more than 10 Lakh cases of COVID 19 in India, was a political confrontation something that the government(s) could afford?

                          – Aanandita Singh